Can Seasonal Depression Make Your Self-Harm Worse?
The change of seasons can sometimes make us feel moody and add seasonal depression on top of self-harm urges, and you might have a problem. Especially in winter months, it’s hard to remain positive when all you see outside your window is doom and gloom. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can happen to some during those times, making us feel depressed and, well, sad. Depression can also fuel self-harm urges, so it’s crucial to practice coping skills and lots of self-love when it’s dark outside.
Seasonal Depression and Self-Harm Urges
Unless you can relocate to a tropical country and stay there until spring, you will likely experience some winter blues this season. It’s completely natural. After all, our bodies have to get used to less sunlight, messing up our melatonin and serotonin production. These two hormones are responsible for our sleeping patterns and happiness levels, which, in my experience, are crucial factors when dealing with self-harm.
It’s important to point out that SAD is a real clinical condition with symptoms similar to depression. It typically manifests in winter, though some people can also experience it in the warmer months.1
People affected by SAD might notice extreme fatigue, changes in mood and sleeping patterns, social withdrawal, and many other symptoms.1 Unsurprisingly, these things might also trigger your self-harm urges. I can tell from experience that depressive states often travel with negative thought patterns, diminished self-worth, and even suicidal ideation, which are typical emotions for many self-harmers.
Dealing with Self-Harm Urges in Winter
While SAD may not be the main culprit and the direct cause for self-harm, it certainly does not help, in my experience. If you believe you might suffer from SAD, please consult your doctor as you might need vitamin D supplements, antidepressants, or other medical help. Otherwise, here are a few things you can do to mitigate your self-harm risks this winter:
- Watch your diet: As the days get colder and darker, we’re prone to reaching for comfort food that’s not always healthy. We don’t usually crave a salad when we’re sad. However, falling into unhealthy eating habits will make you feel even more sluggish. Refined carbs can also aggrevate depression and self-harm symptoms, so stick to whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.2
- Exercise regularly: Cold, rainy days can be discouraging, and it’s easy to stay in bed all day when your energy levels are nonexistent. However, it’s essential to keep active to boost your serotonin levels, especially if you’re prone to seasonal depression.3
- Be kind to yourself: There could be many stressors you might experience this winter. For instance, you might feel the need to slow down and take more naps than usual. Accept it, and don’t be too harsh on yourself. The only pace that matters is your own. Try to reason with your thoughts and nurture your coping skills. Show yourself a lot of self-love.
We all tend to expect perfection when it comes to recovery, but the truth is, staying on top of our self-harm urges can be frustrating and tiring. Let’s acknowledge that, and remind ourselves that in a few months, we’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful sunny day again.
There are a few more holistic tips I’d like to share with you in this video:
Do you suffer from SAD? Does it affect your self-harm urges? Tell me about your seasonal depression and self-harm urges in the comments.
- Mayo Clinic, "Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)." October 2017.
- Marshall, M. Dr., “Refined Carbs May Increase Risk Of Mental Illness.” CBS Boston, August 2015.
- Kandola, A., et al., "Physical activity and depression: Towards understanding the antidepressant mechanisms of physical activity." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, December 2019.
Halas, M. (2020, November 30). Can Seasonal Depression Make Your Self-Harm Worse?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, December 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2020/11/can-seasonal-depression-make-your-self-harm-worse